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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

6 tips to score big in campus interviews

If you are a final year student, welcome to the season of madness that has descended on your campus. Whether in class or canteen, the conversation revolves around placements. Which firms have come? Who has been shortlisted?

Who messed up the interview? You are unsure about your own choices and goals as you are caught in the herd mentality. You are overwhelmed by the family's and your own expectations as friends get job offers while you don't. The only cure for this chaos is to prepare well for your interview. Here's how.

1. Focus on the basics

Spend at least 100 hours in perfecting your resume, as well as the profile in the placement brochure and on your college website. Create multiple versions of your CV for different roles that you are interested in.

Invite comments on it from friends, both students and working professionals. Exercise your judgement and decide which inputs are worth incorporating. Get written references and recommendations from ex-employers if you have prior work experience. Clean up your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to remove unseemly pictures and distracting content. Practise for written tests and group discussions if these are part of the standard placement process on your campus.

2. Customise content

Next, go through the placement committee rules for your batch and analyse how these affect your choices. Whenever a new vacancy is announced, understand the job description thoroughly before submitting a customised resume.

Conduct detailed research on the firm that is advertising, its hiring record for previous years, and the nature of interviews it conducts. Go through its website and related news articles. Speak to the employees of the firm, especially the alumni who were hired the previous year. Make it a point to attend its pre-placement talk on your campus and ask questions to clarify your doubts.
3. Build the foundation

Since your resume gets shortlisted for an interview , mastering it becomes the first step in your preparation. Be ready to answer standard questions on each sentence in your CV. You should be able to describe your major achie vements and projects in two minutes, or analyse it over an hour as the interviewer chooses. Next, download at least a hundred typical interview questions—tell me about yourself; why should we hire you?; what makes you a good consultant or salesman?—from the Internet.
All campus interview questions can be classified into six buckets, namely work experience, education, technical skills, problemsolving skills, personal goals and behaviour.

Prepare in a way that you are able to confidently handle a two-hour interview in any category. The first three sets are the easiest and relate to what you already know. Problem-solving skills may include case interviews or application-oriented questions, which require you to practise beforehand.

The last two types are typically open-ended questions that help employers get a complete picture of you as a person. There are no right or wrong answers to personal preferences or behavioural questions that test your responses to hypothetical situations. The replies reflect your maturity, value system and emotional stability— key components of successful professionals 

4. Sell like a professional

The best prepared answers will get you nowhere if you are unable to present them well. The first step to good communication is to learn how to listen.

Understand what the interviewer really wants to know and do not interrupt him while he is speaking. Seek clarification if you are not sure about the question. During your preparation, practise speaking slowly, clearly and with a neutral accent. Rehearse and perfect your delivery in front of a mirror or a video camera. Thereafter, involve your friends and family to conduct mock interviews for you.

Analyse their criticism to understand what works in conveying the right message. Eliminate unconscious fillers from your speech like 'uhhs' and 'umms', which reflect poor verbal skills. Remember that non-verbal communication, including your appearance, body movement, tone and volume of your voice contribute significantly to the overall impact of your words. Show enthusiasm in your attitude, be willing to admit mistakes and do not use colloquial or insulting words in the interview.

5. Control the interview 

An ideal interview is the one where the interviewer asks questions on your areas of strength. The best candidates are able to create such situations by controlling the interview process. This requires considerable planning and practise. To do so, make sure that your response to each question contains a hook that makes the interviewer curious and encourages him to ask a follow-up question for which you are wellprepared.

For instance, a statement like, 'my biggest strength is my ability to resolve conflicts in a team' will invariably lead to the question, 'can you share a couple of examples?'

Use this technique during mock interviews to finetune your strategy. If the interviewer is going off track, ask a job-related question like, 'is knowledge of taxation the most important component of this job?' Listen to the reply and respond with examples that demonstrate your expertise in taxation.

6. Get a better deal

Once you get a job offer,should you negotiate and, if yes, how? If you are desperate for a job, negotiation is usually a bad idea since you have poor bargaining power and the employer may choose someone else.

However, if you have prior work experience and are being evaluated as a lateral hire, explore a better deal. Most employers will be ready to discuss your perspective on the value that your past experience will add to the new job. You can haggle past a fixed salary band by exploring options like a sign-on bonus or higher performance pay.

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